Macau gross gaming revenue (GGR) is likely to plunge 80 percent this month even though casinos there are expected to reopen on Thursday, according to J.P. Morgan analysts.
That estimate is toward the lower end of various negative forecasts that have emerged in the wake of the novel coronavirus virus, now known as Covid-19. Amid speculation that the Macau closure plan could extend longer than initially expected, Bernstein said last week gaming revenue for February could tumble 95 percent. Other forecasts have called for declines of 75 percent.
At midnight China Standard Time (CST) Thursday, the peninsula’s gaming venues will reopen after officials ordered a 15-day closure on Feb. 4. Officials there haven’t reported any new coronavirus cases since that day, but some gaming industry executives speculated earlier this month that the shutdown could last longer than expected.
Casino reopening news could provide some relief on sentiment, as many observers had thought further suspension was possible,” said the J.P. Morgan analysts.
The suspension is just the second on the peninsula, with the first lasting a mere 33 hours following Typhoon Mangkhut in 2018.
The Other Issue
Gaming properties in the Special Administrative Region (SAR) will reopen on Thursday, but that doesn’t mean gamblers will be there to take advantage. In fact, it might be reasonable to expect Macau’s current status as a ghost town remains intact until Beijing and other governments lift severe travel restrictions to the gaming center.
About 780 million residents, or more than half the population on mainland China – the primary source of Macau gamblers – are under some type of travel controls.
“We see the news itself having little impact on fundamentals, as business will likely remain extremely slow anyway amidst the restrictions on visas [from mainland China]. Individual visit and package tour permits are restricted and transportation (very limited availability of flights/trains),” said J.P. Morgan.
Macau is distributing about $275 million among its residents in hopes of boosting the local economy. But that won’t be enough to prop up the gaming sector, one reliant on visitors from the Chinese mainland and one bleeding an estimated $100 million per day under the closure scheme.
Working Out Logistics
There are some kinks that need to be worked out prior to all of Macau’s gaming properties getting back up to full speed, which officials there are hoping will happen in 30 days. Namely, a 14-day quarantine is being imposed for non-resident workers, which could leave some casinos short-staffed.
Covid-19 could have another effect: delaying the opening of new venues that are expected to add much needed guestroom supply to the market.
“Including the broader impact from Covid-19 on logistics, etcetera, we see a possibility that the opening of new properties (e.g., SJM Holdings Ltd’s Grand Lisboa Palace, Galaxy Macau’s Phase III, Sands China Ltd’s Londoner) may be pushed out by a couple of months versus prior schedules,” said J.P. Morgan.